Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Saddleback Red Devil Glade Oct 15 Update

The volunteers and mountain crew are making great progress on the new glade up at Saddleback. Isaac and I helped out in September, and they made a big push over the Columbus day weekend. Here is a note from Peter Stein who is organizing the volunteers.

I am happy to report that we actually broke through to Bee Wee Pass this weekend!!!  

The attached shows the approximate region that is now to first order skiable thanks to all who volunteered (and a bit of help from Jared and the mountain crew!!).   There was a bit more cutting by the mountain crew that I have not surveyed, and some of the line up to Bee Wee pass from the Red Devil tree island needs some thinning out.   But we definitely have a new glade with an entrance and an exit all the way from Bee Wee Pass to Hudson Highway – which rivals the length of Casablanca.   The wider lower part is the main glade area.  The lower line leading through from the tree island on Red Devil to the main glade area is an all downhill entrance.   The upper line from the tree island is a traverse with a little bit of an uphill section.   The line down from Bee Wee Pass is narrow and goes through a really cool section of large boulders.   




Peter is also planning one more weekend of cutting.

We are planning our last two days of cutting this Saturday and Sunday (18 and 19 October).   There is still a lot of work we can do to make this better.   This includes widening out the top of the main glade region, thinning out the top down from Bee Wee pass, creating a traverse over to the upper section that can be reached from the T-Bar, and doing a bunch of cleaning up.    

Please let me know if you will make it this Saturday.   Unless you hear otherwise, we start at 7:30 at the bottom of the new glade on Hudson Highway.   Training is still available Saturday morning for those who have not had their first day.

Peter can be reached at pstein@scisol.com. It is hard work but also great fun to be creating something cool on the mountain!.

This is going to be really fun to ski! Thanks to Peter, all the volunteers and Saddleback for making this happen!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

2014 Maine Ski Swaps

Last updated November 16, 2014

Here is the 2014 edition of the @MaineSkiFamily ski swap guide. Over the past three years, I have

posted dates, times and locations of Maine based ski swaps and I am doing the same for 2014. It is by far the most popular pages on my blog so I am happy to do it again this year.

The Ski Swap Line - A sign of winter to come!
To get an idea of when the ski swaps happened last year you can review the 2013 swap page. I expect the schedule to largely be the same but I am sure there will be some differences. As I confirm the 2014 ski swaps, I will post them below.

If you are new to ski swaps, you can read my post on Ski Swap Strategies.

Happy Swapping!


NOVEMBER

8th - Freeport Schools Ski Boosters Winter Sports Equipment Swap and Sale is November 8th from 1pm - 3pm at the Freeport High School cafeteria. Drop off times are 4pm to 7pm November 7th and 10am - 1pm November 8th. FMI click here.

8th - Courtesy of MaineHighSchoolSkiing.com, Cape Elizabeth Alpine team is hosting a ski swap on November 8th from 9am - 1pm in the Cape Elizabeth Middle School cafeteria. Drop off for skis to sell is Friday, Nov. 7th 5-7pm.

9th - Brunswick Park and Recreation 46th Annual Ski Sale will be at Brunswick Landing from 1pm - 4pm. Click here FMI.

15th - Pinnacle Ski Club in Pittsfield has a ski swap annually the third Saturday in November from 9am–4pm Drop off items on the Friday before from 6pm–9pm. Keep an eye on their website for more info.

16thThe 51st annual Auburn Ski Association Ski Swap will be held on Sunday, November 16 from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Auburn Middle School on Falcon Drive in Auburn. Check out their website for more info.

22nd - Yarmouth Ski Boosters will have their annual swap from 9am - 12pm at Yarmouth Elementary School. Consignment drop off is Friday, November 21 from 5p - 8p at the same location. FMI contact gmelder1@gmail.com

22nd - 23rd - Camden Snow Bowl has a ski swap over the weekend at Camden Hills Regional High School (new location). Keep an eye on this website for more info.

29th - Downeast Ski Club ski sale is held annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Portland Expo. More info here.

December

6th - Courtesy of MaineHighSchoolSkiing.com, the annual Greely Ski Swap/Sale will be held from 9am to 1pm on Saturday Dec. 6th at the Greely High School in Cumberland. Consignment drop-offs will be accepted:  Wed. Dec. 3rd, Thurs. Dec. 4th, and Fri. Dec. 5th from 6pm to 8pm. FMI email Liz Otley ( eotley1@maine.rr.com)

7th - Courtesy of MaineHighSchoolSkiing.com, The Annual Falmouth Ski Club winter equipment sale will be held on Sunday, December 7 from 12:00-3:00 in the Falmouth Middle School cafeteria. Equipment drop off will be Saturday, December 6 from 5:00 to 7:00. FMI email mcantlin@maine.rr.com or etchellsfleet27@gmail.com

As I receive confirmation of other 2014 swaps I will be updating this blog post. Feel free to comment on the post if you know of other Maine based swaps that are happening and I will update the list.

Prior 2014 Swaps

OCTOBER

12th - CVA up at Sugarloaf will hold its annual ski swap on the Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend (October 11th) from 10:00am to 2:30pm. Click here for more info.
  • While not exactly a ski swap, the Ski-Depot in Jay, Maine will be having a tent sale Columbus Day weekend. Might be worth stopping by on your way up or back from Sugarloaf. More info here.
18th - The Penobscot Valley Ski Club is holding a Ski Swap / Sale at the Bangor Armory from 9AM - 4PM. Click here for more info.

24th-25th - The Bethel Outing Club is having their 34th annual a ski swap  / sale over two days. Click here for more info.

25th - Gorham Bike and Ski in Portland will have a used ski sale from 10am to 1pm. Click here for more info.

25th - via MaineHighSchoolSkiing.com the Scarborough Alpine/Nordic Ski Club  ski sale/swap on Saturday, Oct. 25th at Scarborough Middle School cafeteria. 9:00am-3:00pm.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saddleback Red Devil Glade Work Day

On Saturday September 20th Isaac and I joined a group of a dozen or so volunteers to help shape and cut the new glade next to Red Devil at Saddleback Maine.

Jared Emerson - director of Saddleback's on-mountain operations - helped lead the effort. After a safety briefing from Jared, folks headed up into the woods to start work. The idea is that you basically pick an area you want to work in, and cut down the trees you think are necessary leaving the trees with enough spacing to get good turns in. After falling a tree, you limb it (and limb other trees standing) and lay everything as flat as possible on the forest floor. You don't want air pockets or places where you might get a ski stuck. Jared bounced around helping those that needed it but everyone did a great job. I have to say it is shaping up really well!

Isaac and I spent a few hours 'cleaning up' behind the folks with the chain saws. We removed limbs from trees, and cut down a few smaller trees to make better turning areas. We spent most of our time working in a nice chute on the skiers right portion of the glade.

Creating a glade is slow work and takes a lot of effort... but it will certainly be rewarding to ski! Thanks to everyone that came out to help.

Here are some pics.

End of the glade and the exit out to Hudson Highway

Bottom of a skiers-right chute we were working on

A little higher up the Chute.

And even higher up the chute. Isaac is working on a jump.
A main section of the Glade. Looks really good!

Thank these folks when you ski the glade this winter!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saddleback Maine Red Devil Glade Update

This Saturday (September 20th) there is going to be a volunteer work day up at Saddleback to help cut the new Red Devil glade. Isaac and I are heading up to lend a hand to the volunteer crew that is helping out the professionals that are shaping this new terrain.

Peter Stein, who is organizing the volunteers, was kind enough to send me some pictures of progress to date which I have posted below. They made great progress the first day and are looking for more volunteers to help this Saturday. If you would like to help contact Peter via email pstein@scisol.com or call 603-321-5042.

This glade is going to be really fun to ski! This is a great intermediate area of the mountain that should give intermediate skiers their first taste of glade skiing while giving expert skiers some great new terrain options on the lower mountain. It will be hard work, but certainly rewarding to lend a hand to this effort.

White shaded area is progress after first work day. They are hoping to make it up to the tree island on Red Devil Saturday

This looks GREAT!

Imagine this covered in white. (Insert emoticon for DROOL here)
This hard work will pay off in spades come this winter.
Stay tuned to my @MaineSkiFamily twitter feed and my A Family Skiing in Maine facebook page on Saturday. I will try to post updates as we make progress up the mountain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 2014 - Baxter State Park Trip Report

Ready for our 8 mile hike in!
After a one year hiatus we made our pilgrimage back to Baxter State Park's Russell Pond campground to enjoy this wilderness setting and catch some native Maine brook trout. We were not disappointed! This year we added Isaac's schoolmate and friend Caiden. Hiking in separately and joining us for a couple of days was my wife Juley's Uncle Russ and his hiking friend Fritz.

The 4.75 hour hike in was uneventful but tiring as usual. Caiden and I were packing 50 pounds and Alec and Isaac had 35 strapped to their backs. I suppose the can of beer didn't help my weight but it sure tasted good when I cracked it open after our hike in! As usual we rented out all the bunks in the Russell Pond Bunkhouse which is a nice place to be after a long hike.

Baxter State Park Native Brook Trout
Overall the fishing was very good. We primarily fish 3 ponds. Russell pond adjacent to where we camp and the close by Deep and Six Ponds. Typically Russell is hit or miss for us this time of year, but this year we were able to get some fish out of it. The first evening I was able to land a beautiful 12" brook trout on a Hornburg fly. Caiden and Isaac were able to land a couple on worms and we had 4 fish for dinner. Yummy!

The second day we hit Six Ponds which is about a 1.3 mile hike from Russell. My youngest son Isaac tried fly fishing for the first time. He got a fish on the very first cast! Being so remote, Six Ponds gets very little fishing pressure so the trout are extremely eager and is a great place to learn how to fly fish. You can basically throw a piece of lint on the water and the fish will hit it. It took us about an hour or so to figure out where the fish are but once we found em, it was a fish almost every cast. We lost count but we estimate between the four of us, we landed about 80 fish mostly in the 6"-9" range. Here is a video of a fish literally leaping out of the water for my fly.



The evening of the second day Isaac was able to land a beautiful 11" brook trout at Russell on a fly rod. He
Russell Pond framed by North Turner and Russell Mountains
had to work harder for this one... making a good cast to a rise and then playing in a much bigger fish to the boat. Well done!

We rounded out our fishing at Deep pond the evening of the third day. This year the kindergarten class was out at Deep and while the fishing was active, the fish were very small. It was still a lot of fun and Deep is a beautiful spot.

All 3 of these waters have never been stocked classifying them as native brook trout fisheries.

Cascading Water at Grand Falls
We took a day hike to Grand Falls which is about a 2.5 mile journey from Russell. This is quite a dramatic set of falls cascading through rock and ledge formations. We took a quick and quite refreshing swim... but the water was ice cold even in August!









One thing that is great about Russell is that it gives you the opportunity to totally unplug, unwind and enjoy nature. There is no light pollution at Baxter! My son Alec was able to get some great star shots.

Stars over Russell Pond
The hike out was tiring but the day was bright and temperatures were moderate. We were collectively 30 pounds lighter in our packs but the last couple of miles always drags. It is great to get back to the truck to drink our victory beverages we have stashed in a cooler and change into some clean clothes. Overall a fantastic trip with great company and I am already looking forward to doing it again.

To wrap up this post here is a video montage of our journey that Isaac put together.


Thanks to Alec Salisbury, Caiden Shea and Isaac Salisbury for supplying the images and videos for this blog post.







Monday, July 28, 2014

New Glade in the Works at Saddleback

Recently Saddleback sent out a newsletter email and their was an interesting new development in the ski terrain. They are planning a new gladed area between Red Devil and Hudson Highway. They are looking for volunteers for moving cut timber and brush. This is great news and I hope they get a great turnout for helpers!

SADDLEBACK VOLUNTEER TRAIL MAINTENANCE & CLEARING PROJECTS BEING PLANNED 
 
Double Black Diamond Glade!A note from Peter Stein who is leading the volunteer part of this project. If you are looking for a great way to contribute to Saddleback, please consider joining our new volunteer trail maintenance and clearing crew.   We will work with the Jimmy, Jared, and the rest of the Saddleback mountain team to make new trails and maintain all the great trails we have.   Our first new trail project will be to glade out the area bounded by Red Devil, Hudson Highway, and the Bee Wee Pass. This area is almost as large as Casablanca and will produce both a large intermediate glade and some exciting steeps.   Volunteering is an excellent way to help the mountain, get some great outdoor exercise, and make the Saddleback ski experience even better. To join, one needs to be in good hiking condition and able to walk over rough mountain terrain. You do not need to be able to use power equipment such as chain saws. A great deal of the work simply involves moving cut timber and brush. Our first work dates will be over Labor Day weekend, August 30 through September 1, and the second work dates will be during Fall Festival, September 20-21.  More will be scheduled through October depending on interest.  


Please contact Peter Stein via email pstein@scisol.com or 603-321-5042 for more information and to sign up.    
  
We are hoping to make a lot of progress this year, but it relies on enough volunteers to make the total effort worthwhile. So please contact Peter Stein as soon as possible.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Our Grand Cayman Adventure


The @MaineSkiFamily crew had a great trip to the Caribbean Island of Grand Cayman in June 2014. There is certainly no chance of snow on this island!

My wife Juley and I originally saw this island for a few hours on our honeymoon cruise, and we took a week long 20th wedding anniversary trip to the Cayman's in July 2013. We knew we just had to bring the kids back to see the underwater beauty available 'under the sea' as the Cayman's are a world class snorkeling and diving destination in its crystal clear blue waters. So we figured out a way to make this happen! #justdoit

The short version of our trip is that it was hot as we visited in the summer off season (we are not going to miss winter skiing after all), but the underwater adventures are wondrous. Cayman is not an island that you spend a lot of time on dry land. All the action is on and under the sea. Browse through the pictures below to see some of the sights we saw. For those that what a more in-depth review, and perhaps you found this blog through a Google Search because you are considering a trip of your own, read on for all the details and our tips and insights on the Caymans. A lot of the links below point to Trip Advisor as we find that website quite helpful in deciding what to do and we are frequent contributors to that site.

Travel and Island Transportation 
For our flight, we ended up driving to Boston, and flying to 'Uh - Going to Miami' (Bad Will Smith reference) to Cayman.  Not ideal, as these were pretty long travel days but this was the only way to do it without selling our first born child. We flew American Airlines and it was acceptable. Tip - If you plan to drink a bit buy alcohol duty free in the US airport prior to going to Cayman. For example, a bottle of Kahlua cost $20 duty free in the Miami airport and was close to $46 on the island liquor store. I think you can bring one liter per person into the country.

For Island transportation it depends where you are staying. Grand Cayman is famous for its 'Seven Mile Beach' (SMB) which contains a lot of beach front hotels and amenities. It is busy but very nice for those wanting to be closer to the action. It is how we first experienced Cayman for a few hours on our Honeymoon cruise. I still have very vivid memories of being amazed at the fish swimming around us as we put our flippers on. If you are staying on SMB most of the hotels have shuttles and taxi's so you don't have to rent a car. If you are staying elsewhere on the island - notably the East or North Ends and car rental is advised as this area is more remote. Last year we rented from McCurley's and they pick you up at the airport, stop for groceries and bring you to your hotel / condo where your car is waiting. It was a nice way to get settled in but the car they gave us was kind of a beater. This year we rented from Avis / Cisco and were satisfied with the car and since we already knew our way around the Island it was a piece of cake. Remember - you have to drive on the left in Cayman!

Places to Stay 
Getting Ready for a Rum Point Sunset Kayak
As I mentioned above, there is plenty of places to stay on SMB, but if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle our favorite location is Rum Point. This is located at the northern tip of the island and is our favorite place to snorkel. We stayed at a condo development called The Retreat and we stayed in Unit #21. It is a nice mix of immediate beach access, well appointed air conditioned condo's, pool / game room and on-site management in case you need anything. Last summer we stayed at the Sea Lodges which is a but further down from Rum Point. It was nice but the particular unit had no air conditioning and relied on the island breezes. The breeze was blowing but it was still hot. AC is recommended especially for ski bums not used to the heat. The Rum Point Beach / Restaurant / Bar area is right around the corner, but you would never know it. Even when it is really busy on that side of the point the Retreat is tucked away around the corners shielded from activity, but it is nice to hop over there for a drink and fun if you want!

Snorkel, Snorkel, Snorkel
A Variety of Grunts During our Drift Snorkel
The main attraction for us is the snorkeling opportunities in Cayman. While we focused on Rum Point, there are many places to snorkel in Cayman. A must read is Testudo's Snorkel Guide. It is a non-commercial web site / blog with a wealth of information on snorkeling spots in Grand Cayman with 3 great snorkel trips you can do right off Rum Point. Our favorites were the Rum Point Drift Route and Boulder Coral Gardens. I highly recommending reviewing this website



The Retreat is a great place to learn to
Blue Tangs Right under the Rum Point Dock Close to Shore
snorkel as well. Just 20 yards from the beach is a row of rocks / coral with a wide variety of fish life and you can swim the entire Rum Point dock and probably see Barry the Barracuda. All of this can be done in water you can stand up in if you need to fiddle with your mask or take a break as you get used to snorkeling. Once you get your fins under you per say, you can then venture out to deeper waters to see some pretty amazing coral and fish life. A tip for a fog free mask - diluted baby shampoo. Just put some in the inside of your mask, swish around then dump out but don't rinse! This will keep your mask fog free.

A Queen Angel Fish in Vivid Technicolor
We also rented some kayak's (and our fins) from White Sands Water Sports that allowed us to go out deeper. A few hundred yards from shore of Rum Point there are some white buoys close to the reef edge where you can tie off your kayak's and snorkel with the fish, turtle's and ray's. Don't worry if you flip the kayak when your partner jumps off. They turn over pretty easy as we found out. :-)

The Coral Formations were Quite Remarkable




We didn't see any Nurse Sharks or Moray Eels this trip like we did last year but don't worry, they are harmless if you leave them alone. We did see a turtle, numerous sting rays and probably a 4-5 foot long barracuda along with over 50 species of tropical fish.

We snorkeled a couple of times a day. Earlier in the morning is best as it is less busy with other boats and the waves while never big, are typically calmer. One calm morning we snorkeled all the way out to the first buoy. It is so relaxing and enjoyable. The marine life and water quality is spectacular. Think "bucket list" on this.




Other Things to Do
Probably the most famous attraction is Sting Ray City - an opportunity to swim with wild sting rays on a sand bar in the middle of the North Sound bay. Definitely worth the trip. I highly recommend an early morning trip especially when the cruise ships are in town and again we used White Sand Water Sports for this trip.  After the trip White Sand takes you too a fabulous snorkel location right on the edge of the reef. Here are a couple of pictures and a video from our trip. Another 'bucket list' moment.

You Do Literally Swim with the Sting Rays at Sting Ray City

The Magnificent Southern Sting Ray

And check out our video we made from our Sting Ray City visit!



Cayman is also a great fishing destination and we decided to charter a boat for a half a day via Slackem Charters. While they tried, we just could not get the fish to bite and it ended up being a long and expensive boat ride with some sea sickness to boot. If we were able to get in the fish it would have been a lot of fun but they were just not biting that day. So it is a bit of a roll of the dice if you want to try deep sea fishing.

Places to Eat
We are not super knowledgeable on the dining in Cayman. Since we had a condo we did a lot of eating in the condo to try to save some coin as eating out is quite expensive. However, we did like Over the Edge on the north side as a nice place to eat. Casual, relaxed with great food - especially the seafood - at reasonable prices for Cayman standards. We tried Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville on a trip to Georgetown - Not great. Don't recommend it! Wrong orders (and no orders) delivered after a mega wait! I do think the seafood cuisine in Cayman is excellent and the SMB area has a ton of dining options. The Rum Point Wreck Bar is right around the corner from our condo as was great for afternoon mud slides and other fun drinks! We didn't visit the Rum Point restaurant but it was full every night and has good reviews.

So obviously we had a great trip and would love to go back again some day. It is one place where we can unplug, unwind and relax within minutes of arriving at Rum Point. For those looking to visit Grand Cayman someday I hope you found this blog helpful. If you have any questions don't hesitate to use the comment section!